2009: The Longest Night

The series ended with Game 4, but it was Game 2 of the ALDS that took it out of me. I dreaded the idea of having to leave the ballpark, the series all but over. I sat in the parking lot until traffic let out; I wasn’t in any condition to drive, much less brood bumper to bumper. I thought about being in my room, having to face reality, looking at the computer, perhaps inadvertently catching highlights on the news. Trapped by those four walls. It was sickening. And I was overwhelmed by it. When I returned home, I parked the car, and took a walk instead.

I thought about the game. About the series – no Manny, no Schilling, yet nothing had changed. I thought – a lot – about the fact that I would live the rest of my life without seeing the Angels beat the Red Sox. It struck me as stupid that I cared that much, that the game had affected me to that degree. Was my life that much worse because the series was 0-2 instead of 1-1? I considered what it would be like to just give up the team. For a second. And I walked on the streets around campus, for an hour or two. Thinking, and sometimes not.

It’s impossible for me to justify that night. It’s a game, after all, a team that I’m not a part of. But this is who I am. 2008 was heart-breaking. It was soul-crushing. It was the year that the stars seemed aligned for this franchise against that one, the year that the crack in the door was wider than ever before. Poetic: to get back to the World Series, we’d have to finally get through Boston. It honestly never struck me that it would end that abruptly again. It wasn’t like I assumed victory… I just never imagined the opposite happening again. It seemed too cruel. And it was.

2009.

This is the fallout. The infield is a mess, resembling a Double-A team rather than a World Series contender. The outfield – well, they’re two-deep once again, but largely overpaid and aging. Teixeira really was the perfect fit for this team, but then, we don’t have Yankee money. Matthews’ contract is an albatross less than halfway through its fulfillment. We let G.A. walk after 14 years in the uniform. No fanfare, nothing. And Vlad’s age and contract status only underlines the transition on the horizon.

Even the pitching scares me. Saunders might have had a career year last year. Weaver remains wildly inconsistent. The fifth spot is up for grabs, and I wonder if Lackey is tempted to test the market after the season. While I haven’t had to worry about the bullpen for years, it’s still different. It’s jarring, really. 40, not 57. Lefty, not righty. Fuentes, not Frankie.

It turns out that I got almost everything wrong last year – except for the end result. “First round and out.” 100 wins: a banner year, a complete team. And in four games, it was all over. In two, it was ripped to shreds. I offer no such predictions this year. I feel good about the division, mostly. But with everything else, the more left unsaid, the better. It’s a different era. This is the fallout.

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